The Monkees

The Monkees Present

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The Monkees Present was initially planned as a double LP with each member of the group taking a side for himself. When Peter Tork left the band, the idea was scrapped, but the idea of every Monkee for themselves wasn’t. Apart from the two Boyce and Hart songs that were rescued from earlier sessions from 1966 (and probably should have stayed in the can), all the songs were recorded in late 1968 and 1969 by Davy Jones, Mike Nesmith, and Mickey Dolenz separately. While it could have made for a scattered LP that made no sense musically, instead Nesmith’s intricate country-rock, Jones’ jazzy, showy ballads, and Dolenz’ alternately crazed and intimate songs managed to fit together quite well. It helped that each member was operating near the peak of their skills. Nesmith’s "Listen to the Band" is a slight song but a brilliant sonic experiment, and "Good Clean Fun" rollicks like the best country music should. Jones’ "If I Knew" is sweeter than lemonade with extra sugar, and "French Song" shows off his impressive skills as a theatrical balladeer to great effect. Dolenz seems to be operating on some kind of insane plane of existence as he croons through the manic "Little Girl" like he’s barely holding on, howls through the pounding "Bye Bye Baby Bye Bye" like a manic pixie, channels his inner Nilsson on "Pillow Time," and basically loses it on the quite intense "Mommy and Daddy." Both musically and lyrically, he takes some real chances on these tracks: something he’d never do again. The level of commitment and craft the members invested in the album was impressive considering they had lost their TV show and really had no reason to exist anymore. Soon after the album’s release, Nesmith quit the group to make his own excellent solo albums, while Jones and Dolenz were left to carry on. As a last gasp though, The Monkees Present is better than it could have been, and a solid note for the band as a creative unit to go out on.[The 1994 Rhino reissue adds a demo of Nesmith’s "Calico Girlfriend" (done samba style), a spoken word effort by Jones, a hilariously square radio promo, and enlightening alternate versions of "Listen to the Band" (with expanded instrumental sections) and "Mommy and Daddy" (with different lyrics that were far too chilling to unleash on any lingering pre-teen fans the band may have accidentally still had).]

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